Will there be a pumpkin shortage this season due to an invasive fungus in Illinois fields?

Jennifer Geer

Illinois harvests the bulk of pumpkins in the U.S. But this year, a fungus has destroyed some of the crops.

"I'd say we lost 25 to 30% of our crop," said Penny Bliler, co-owner of Indian Knoll Pumpkin Patch told WAND17 TV.

The reason: a fungus invaded Illinois pumpkin patches beginning in July due to excessive rains. The fungus causes the pumpkins to rot on the vine before they ripen and can be picked and sold.

Bliler explained the issue, "The fungus problem started easily in July and it was hard to get in to spray as much as we like to spray because it was still raining and then the heat on top of all the rain really hurt the crop."

Illinois produces tons of pumpkins

Pumpkins are grown everywhere in the U.S., but six states produce most of the pumpkin crop. Illinois tops this list, producing around 80% of pumpkins used for pie filling or other processing, according to the USDA.

Can we still get pumpkins for jack-o-lanterns?

According to a report from KSDK, the crop won't be as bountiful as in the past, but there will still be pumpkins available for Halloween.

However, you may want to head out sooner rather than later to get your pumpkins. Jerry Hearn of Eckert's Farms told KSDK, “It’s going to get tighter every weekend that we go until the end of the month. It’s going to get a little tighter on the pumpkin supply, but I don’t want anybody to worry that we’re going to run out of pumpkins. We’re going to have plenty of pumpkins for you to pick.”

At Indian Knoll Pumpkin Patch, Bliler said they had planted extra pumpkins this year to be sure they had plenty of everyone.

Choose healthy pumpkins when picking your own

If you like to pick pumpkins from the field, check for bright colors and watch for signs of rot. Raghela Scavuzzo, Executive Director of the Illinois Specialty Growers Association said, “You want to look at a pumpkin that is bright and colorful."

What about canned pumpkins?

Will the fungus affect the canned pumpkin puree needed for Thanksgiving pies? The Spruce Eats spoke to Libby's to find out the scoop.

Libby's pumpkins are grown in Morton, Illinois. According to the folks at Libby's, there should be plenty of canned pumpkin on the grocery store shelves for all of your holiday pumpkin needs. Smaller brands may struggle with supply chain issues or crop damage, but Libby's crop is "growing as anticipated" and shouldn't affect the cans sold at grocery stores.

That's good news for pumpkin pie lovers, but still, it couldn't hurt to buy your canned pumpkin a little early this year for Thanksgiving, just to be safe.

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Jennifer covers lifestyle content and local news for the Chicago area.

Chicago, IL
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